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Sales-tax holiday a welcome break

Many area shoppers are planning the strategies they will use in area stores this weekend to take advantage of the state’s annual holiday from sales tax.

During the tax-free weekend, Friday through Sunday, consumers can purchase back-to-school supplies and many clothing items and footwear (on items priced less than $100) without having to add sales tax to the bill. For each $100 spent, the consumer saves about $8, and to many area families, the benefits can be significant.

In addition to saving money, we like the tax-free weekend because it’s one of the few state programs we can think of that actually gives consumers a break.

And the timing couldn’t be better. Back-to-school shopping can put a hefty dent in the family budget.

Families nationwide are planning to go out and spend an average of $688.62 on back-to-school shopping this year — about $85 more than last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual back-to-school survey.

Parents are expected to spend more money on clothes, accessories and electronics this year, although the survey said consumers are still concerned about the economy. Back-to-school spending nationwide is expected to total $30.3 billion this year, according to the survey.

That’s a lot of green, but thanks to the Texas sales tax holiday, consumers here can get some relief. The state comptroller’s office predicts that Texas shoppers will save an estimated $64.8 million in state and local sales taxes during the sales tax holiday.

We can certainly understand why Richard Last, a lecturer of merchandising at the University of North Texas, said back-to-school shopping gets customers in a good mood and provides a good indication of future fall shopping.

“It is more powerful than the usual discounting that is offered,” Last told us. “Maybe it is because the event only comes once a year.”

Last said the tax-free weekend works the same way when customers make their purchases online, and according to the state comptroller’s office, if customers place qualifying merchandise on layaway during the weekend or make a final payment, they, too, can qualify for exemption.

Craig Shearman, a spokesman with the National Retail Federation, said retailers look forward to tax-free weekends because they are successful at drawing customers.

Shearman described it as a psychological phenomenon, different than going to a regular sale where the retailer would offer a percentage discount of 5 percent to 10 percent.

We don’t know a lot about psychology, but saving dollars makes sense to us, so you’ll probably see us shopping this weekend. Texas is one of only 17 states in the country that have tax-free weekends, and we intend to take full advantage of the opportunity.

You can check out a list of items that qualify for the sales-tax savings and learn more about the tax-free holiday by visiting .